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Destination Guide

MUMBAI (Bombay) - Weather Chart
Average   Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rainfall In Inches 0.01 0.04 0.01 0.01 0.82 26.30 38.50 26.90 12.60 4.76 0.28 0.04
Temp Low - F 61 63 68 75 79 79 77 75 75 73 68 65
Temp High - F 88 90 91 91 91 90 86 84 86 90 91 90

Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is the commercial capital of India. Mumbai is many cities in one. As the world's largest textiles market, a major industrial center and the country's busiest port handling over 40 percent of India's maritime trade, it contributes around 50 percent of the national exchequer. The city hums with activity, and its more than eight million residents and three million commuters seem to be constantly on the move. The original island of Bombay consolidating a number of earlier islands is only 24 kilometers (15 miles) long and about four kilometers (2.5 miles) wide at its broadest point and has a population density of over 43,000 persons per square kilometer (100,000 per square mile), amongst the highest in the world. Christian churches with Hindu temples in a medley of contradictions that makes Mumbai a product of the Indian past that holds the key to the present and the future.

Perhaps the appropriate place to begin exploring Bombay's colonial legacy is the Gateway of India. Built to commemorate the royal visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911, the gateway is a combination of European and Indian ceremonial architecture. The last British troops marched out through this gate when India became independent in 1947. Today it is a favorite haunt of tourists.


Elephanta, Kanheri and Bassein

About an hour's ride away by motorboat from the Gateway of India lies Elephanta, a cave-temple shrine hewn out of solid rock some time in the eighth century A.D. Probably intended as a private place of worship for the ruling family, the exact date of its construction will never be known. The Portuguese plundered the island in the sixteenth century and they destroyed the plaque that bore details of its history.

It was the Portuguese who named the island after the large stone elephant that guarded it. The original name is Gharapuri, the fortress city. The elephant has since been shifted and reassembled in the compound of the Bombay Zoo, as guides are quick to point out. The caves represent what is probably the last examples of the golden age of art that flourished in the Gupta period. Elephanta caves are unsurpassed in terms of beauty and eloquence. The Siva Temple originally had three entrances. The inner sanctuary, beyond the realm of images, has a plain and un adomed yonilingam, the symbol of strength and creativity. Amidst irregular pillars in the Dravidian style, a celestial drama unfolds, the most dramatic of which are Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa and the marriage of Siva and Parvati. The Triurti of Siva is the focal point.

At Kanheri, 42 km from Mumbai, are 109 Buddhist caves dating from around the second to the ninth centuries A.D. Cave 3 is worth a visit, with its grand chaitya (prayer hall) and a long colonnade of pillars. Bassein, on the coast north of Bombay, was once a splendid Portuguese stronghold. Its magnificent fort, where only the Hidalgos (aristocracy) lived, is now in ruins, though vestiges of Portuguese glory still remain.

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